Gardening Question of the Day

When did people first use fertilizer that wasn't a natural product?

Superphosphate was patented by John Bennet Lawes in England in 1842.

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Do blackberry plants need full sun, and what would they like that I can add to the ground to amend the soil?

Blackberries need full sun for good production. They aren’t particularly fussy about soil, provided that it is well drained. Manure or compost mixed into the soil may be all the nutrition that they need. Add lime, if needed, to bring soil pH up to 5.5–7.5. A light layer of organic mulch will keep the soil moisture even. --Gardening experts George and Becky Lohmiller, Hancock, New Hampshire

The trees in our New Hampshire town are covered with ugly cocoonlike things that look as if they're destroying the foliage. What are these?

Most likely you're seeing the webs of fall webworms, also called bagworms or eastern tent caterpillars. These can appear from late July through October. The caterpillars are greenish yellow with lots of hair and black dots, and they feed on leaves. As feeding continues, their silken webs enlarge to cover the areas they plan to eat. This can indeed make it look as if the tree is being destroyed. Insecticides can control the worms, but each web must be penetrated for success. Infected branches also can be removed and the caterpillar webs destroyed. Bad as the webs may look, however, the damage they cause is usually minimal, and most leaves will return the following spring.

When I brought my zebra plant in for the winter, it dropped all its leaves except for the top four. It looks sick. I transplanted it after I bought it this past summer, and it did just fine until I brought it in for the winter. What can I do for it?

Like the animal, zebra plants don’t like being confined. Actually, the problem is probably humidity or lack of it. Zebras need high humidity and good light, and prefer a soilless potting mix. --Gardening experts George and Becky Lohmiller, Hancock, New Hampshire

Could you tell me where the seeds are on creeping phlox?

When the flowers fade, seed heads will develop. Phlox will self-sow sometimes, but often reverts to its parentage, so don't expect the same flower colors. --Gardening experts George and Becky Lohmiller, Hancock, New Hampshire

I've tried forcing amaryllis bulbs to bloom indoors but without success. What might I be doing wrong?

These bulbs won't bloom if the pot is too large. Leave no more than an inch of space on either side of the bulb, and make sure that at least one-third of the bulb is showing above the soil line.

Are beechnuts edible?

Beechnuts are edible and are eaten dried, in most cases.

When is the best time to divide my peony?

Dig your peonies in early fall. Rinse off the soil with a garden hose, then divide the rhizomes into sections, making sure each section has three eyes. Plant immediately to make sure they are established before the first freeze.

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